Filming on Joe Carnahan‘s Stretch “began in July 2013, [after which] the film was originally set to be released on 3.21.14,” the Wiki page reminds. “On 1.21.14, that release date was deep-sixed by Universal Pictures in what The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kim Masters called “an apparently unprecedented move.” Producer Jason Blum tried shopping the film to other distributors but came up empty. The film reverted to Universal. It’ll be released on iTunes and Amazon.com on 10.7.14, followed by a VOD release a week later.
When I first started thinking and writing about Kristen Stewart around ’04 or thereabouts, I thought she had something exceptional brewing inside. I thought she might eventually become the new Montgomery Clift or some facsimile thereof. I’m not so sure that’s in the cards but at least one can say that after a few starts and stops Stewart finally stepped up the plate three times in 2014. Camp X-Ray, in which she lent palpable weariness and inner conflict to Amy Cole, the green Guantanamo recruit, was the first indication when it played Sundance. Then came her subtly-drawn performance as Valentine, the personal assistant to Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria, which everyone saw in Cannes. I haven’t seen Still Alice, in which Stewart plays Julianne Moore‘s daughter, but I read somewhere that she nails this one also. This is all to say that Stewart deserves a Best Supporting Actress nomination as much as Birdman‘s Emma Stone, Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette and Foxcatcher‘s Vanessa Redgrave.
Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart in the little-seen Still Alice.
Clouds of Sils Maria
So “Denzel whoop-ass” is such a huge draw that people don’t care if the 2014 version of it — Antoine Fuqua‘s The Equalizer — is maybe one-third as good as Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire, if that? It’s going to make $35 million this weekend, and that’s…somewhat depressing. Then again I’m no one to talk. I knew The Equalizer might suck (Fuqua is a low-rider) but like the schmuck that I am and always will be I went to see it anyway during the Toronto Film Festival. What’s the verdict from the HE gang? Surely most readers agree with me that it goes downhill fast after the first big violent bone-snap (i.e., Denzel vs. five or six Russian mafiosos).
From my 9.7 review: “The Equalizer starts out coolly and unpretentiously and in no big hurry for the action to start. Which is okay with me. I was impressed by the fact that Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire (’04), still the high-water mark for Denzel whoop-ass, delayed the inciting incident (i.e., the kidnapping of Dakota Fanning) until the 45-minute mark. That was radical (inciting incidents usually occur between the 20 and 25-minute mark) and, for me, exciting. So The Equalizer‘s somewhat similar approach felt right.
“The film is basically about Denzel bringing pain and death to a slew of bad guys. But I really need the action to be semi-plausible and that means Denzel has to be at least a little bit vulnerable, and I really don’t want the bad guys to just be heavily-armed, standard-issue muscle-bound jerkoffs, glaring and snarling and wearing the same beards and shaved heads and dressed in the usual black bad-guy apparel (black suits, black T-shirts, slick black boots).
The better genre films always mix in a little thematic undertow. They’re always about the under-story as much as the above-board one, and sometimes more so. Collateral was about a sardonic, blunt-spoken hitman forcing a flustered Los Angeles cab driver to help him assassinate several informants, but the real story was about the hitman saving the cabbie from a life of lethargy and aimlessness. And sometimes genre films do even more than this. They tell a story with the usual twists and turns, but the primary focus is the current social malaise — the dozens upon dozens of atmospheric details and flavor samplings that comprise a portrait of the times in which we live, the laws and customs we follow or defy, and the kind of people we’ve more or less become. This, I submit, is what Gone Girl is up to — cultural portraiture by way of a missing-wife whodunit. It doesn’t insist that you pay attention to the undercurrent — you can zone out and let the usual cat-and-mouse plot be the whole show if that’s what you want, but the riches are in the minutiae. And I don’t just mean the lampooning of TV tabloid “news” shows…that’s the low-hanging satiric fruit. I’m talking about everything in this film…it’s all about “us.” This is the kind of of movie that I more or less live for, or that delivers the kind of electric movie charge that justifies all the tedium. A movie that fiddles a tune that we can all hear with a common ear, but at the same performs a kind of haunting under-symphony. Your call, your move…there if you want it.
Gone Girl is a gas, and I mean that in a truly fascinating ass-wind sense. It’s a wonderfully tight, highly disciplined, utterly delightful “who killed the missing wife?” flick by a master craftsman, but don’t kid yourself about it being just on that level. It’s much more than a rote crime melodrama. Gone Girl is basically an entertaining sociology lecture from Professor Fincher. A blistering assessment of American upscale marriages and social values and self-fuckitude like you’ve never quite seen. How do I get outta here? Look at how miserable we manage to make each other…togetherness! And the pigslop tabloid media brigade…God! Women and men are going to have sharply different reactions to Gone Girl, but for openers guys are going to go “wow…whoa” and some feminists are going to howl “is this a comprehensive portrait of 2014 male misogyny or what?” This view is complicated, of course, by the fact that Gillian Flynn, a whip-smart ex-Entertainment Weekly staffer, wrote the book to begin with. On the other hand Fincher brings the shit home. Gone Girl is a deliciously cold, twisted, half-satiric portrait of elite American values — the whole rotten state of disillusioned post-2008 married yuppie barforama. And fuck me. It’s 10:18 pm on a lovely warm night in midtown Manhattan. I’ve just uploaded two pics and two short videos of the post-Gone Girl press conference at Leows Lincoln Square, and now I have about 15 minutes before heading over to the post-gala party at Tavern on the Green. Later.
It obviously dates me to say this but I immediately said to myself “Peter Max” as I stepped on this IRT northbound train this morning.
Taken on the set of From Here to Eternity, sometime in late ’52 or early ’53. All three were either peaking or close to peaking and didn’t know it. Marlon Brando’s last great film of his youth (Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront) would begin shooting later that year and then downhill for nearly 20 years before The Godfather. Fred Zinneman had just directed High Noon and would enjoy a fruitful career into the early ’80s, but he never again crested as highly as this moment. Montgomery Clift was already beginning to sink into alcoholic self-destruction and would never again land as good a role as Robert E. Lee Prewitt.
What’s wrong with sitting on steps? Isn’t that what they’re partly for?
It’s been eight months since I first saw Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash so I figured I’d give it another go this morning at the New York Film Festival. It’s just as gripping and screwed-down and possessed as ever. It certainly contains Miles Teller‘s best performance so far. I’ve noted previously that J.K. Simmons‘ performance as a psychotic musical instructor, a manic loon in the tradition of R. Lee Ermey‘s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, is 100% baity. (In my book the Best Supporting Actor race is Simmons vs. Birdman‘s Edward Norton.) Chazelle’s reported decision to make a biopic about Apollo astronaut and first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong is perplexing, but he’s clearly a top-tier talent.
Moderator Amy Taubin, star J.K. Simmons during noontime New York Film Festival press conference following 10 am screening of Whiplash.
Simmons, Whiplash director Damien Chazelle.
David Fincher‘s Gone Girl has been reviewed so extensively and passionately by so many critics over the last few days that tonight’s New York Film Festival “premiere” has been made to seem all but meaningless. Yes, I’m totally cranked about catching the NYFF press screening at 5 pm today (although I wish it could be shown at a better facility than the problematic AMC Lincoln Square) but the decision to let everyone and his brother review it a few days early has undermined this hallowed 52 year-old festival. Everyone is complaining about this. And yet I’m thrilled by Sasha Stone‘s review, which is one of the best pieces of writing she’s delivered in a long while. Because it’s about her as much as the film, and because she offers strong interpretive connections between the film and post-2008 yuppie-hell culture.
“Maybe Gone Girl is about the death of marriage in America,” she writes. “Maybe it’s about the death of that pretty little lie.” [Note: Stone also refers to a “Big Lie” which more or less refers to the same domestic bullshit.] “One thing it’s not about is what almost every film coming out in the next few months is about. It’s not about men.
“An eavesdropping observational camera style and a generalized sense of compassion prove no substitute for what’s missing from Time Out of Mind — any sense of drama. This longtime pet project of producer-actor Richard Gere and, eventually, for writer-director Oren Moverman, displays a certain kind of dedication for evoking the life of the homeless in New York City, but with Gere’s character so lacking in memory and mental clarity, the film provides very little for an audience to latch on to. Tedium quickly sets in and is only sporadically relieved in this labor of love that simply doesn’t reward even the patient attention of sympathetic viewers.” — from Todd McCarthy‘s Hollywood Reporter review, filed on 9.7.14.
This afternoon’s Time Out of Mind press conference at the Walter Reade theatre, which followed a 11:45 am screening, featured moderator and NYFF selection honcho Amy Taubin, producer-star Richard Gere and director Oren Moverman.
“Who thinks up a film like The Babadook? Actress-turned-debuting-feature-director Jennifer Kent has the narrative chutzpah to show her entire hand in the pop-up story and then make us squirm as foretold events come true. The Babadook is femalecentric in ways that other horror movies, while often dominated by tough ‘final girls,’ rarely are. It’s a tale in which the real terror might have already happened; parents should brace themselves.
“On purely formal grounds (the ones on which the genre lives or dies), Kent is a natural. She favors crisp compositions and unfussy editing, transforming the banal house itself into a subtle, shadowy threat. You’re not going to be sprung out of your seat by an overzealous sound designer, and when the beast shows up (a wild creation of puppetry, stop-motion animation and suggestive noises), it’s possible to be equally as riveted by Davis’s mouse-turned-lioness performance, tearing into the territory of Cate Blanchett.
I’m sorry but John Herzfeld‘s Reach Me looks like a problem. The phrase “a self-help book written by a mysterious author” plus the participation of Sylvester Stallone…a bit scary. Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Tom Berenger, Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, Lauren Cohan, Ryan Kwanten, Danny Trejo, Kevin Connolly, Terry Crews, Danny Aiello. Simultaneous theatrical and VOD on 11.21.